The Victorian age, from the start of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1837, has become one of the most popular eras for those wanting an antique or vintage ring. The range of engagement rings, weddings rings, anniversary rings and other, special occasion rings available from this period demonstrates the jeweler’s art of combining beautiful gemstones with romantic settings. Never has Victorian jewelry – and Victorian Rings – been more popular.
Queen Victoria’s reign from 1837 through to 1901, brought about a long period of prosperity in Britain. A combination of a high level of trade across the whole British Empire together with and the Industrial Revolution led to a rising affluent middle class. These were people who were eager to spend their new -found wealth – and some of it on expensive jewelry.
The jewelry and styles of the period reflect the affluence that could be found within middle class society – as well as the aristocracy – of the time.
The Romantic Movement had already transformed many of the arts during the late 18th and early 19th centuries and its effects were in full force by the time Queen Victoria came to the throne. The impact on the jewelry of the time was enormous. Victorian jewelry became more ornate; hearts, flowers, bows etc were incorporated into all forms of jewelry – rings, necklaces, bracelets, brooches etc.
Increasing levels of travel abroad by the affluent members of this middle class, together with the discoveries made by architects in Egypt, Greece and Asia Minor, opened up British eyes to the wonders of the Middle and Far East.
Jewelers were quick to take inspiration from the unusual and exciting treasures found in far away places and started to produce exotic styles of jewelry.
As new discoveries found their way onto the scene, designs were adapted to incorporate the latest fada and fashions.
Yellow gold was the prime metal used by Victorian jewelers, due to the abundance of it from newly found mines in California and Australia. The increased availability of yellow gold helped to increase the popularity for gold engagement rings, gold wedding rings and other jewelry in this metal.
Diamonds in the early Victoria era were rare and affordable only by the upper classes. Early Victorian diamond rings were made from rose cut and old cut diamonds. Other precious gemstones, such as rubies, emeralds, garnets, amethysts, citrines, opals and pearls were more likely to be used for engagement and wedding rings, rather than diamonds, because they were more readily available and affordable.
With the discovery of new diamond mines in South Africa during the late 19th century, engagement and wedding ring styles started to combine both diamonds with other precious gemstones. Designs, such as the 5 stone half hoop ring – using a combination of diamonds and gemstones – became popular and continued to be so well into the 20th century.
With the increase in diamond availability, diamonds started to become more affordable and in 1886, Tiffany introduced their classic six prong diamond solitaire ring – a style that is still one of the most popular settings of today.